The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie first saw daylight in Geneva, in 1991, when five exhibitors took a leap of faith and independence. Mission accomplished. This year the event is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and confirms its position as the foremost date in the Rolex replica watch for sale making calendar. Fabienne Lupo, SIHH managing director, looks back at 25 exciting years.
The mere mention of the SIHH strikes a chord with anyone who is the least bit familiar with the measuring of time. Four letters suffice: SIHH – Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie for the uninitiated – has become a veritable hallmark; were it eligible for certification, it would surely be awarded a “designation of origin” and a mark of quality label. A reputation it has earned over its 25 years of existence. As the SIHH prepares to celebrate its quarter-century this January, managing director Fabienne Lupo shares her impressions.
Looking back, what are your thoughts on the SIHH in its early days?
Fabienne Lupo, SIHH Managing Director: It’s impossible to compare the very first SIHH in 1991, which brought together five brands in 4,500 square metres of exhibition space, and the event as it is today, with its 16 Maisons spread over 40,000 square metres inside Palexpo Geneva. That said, while the environment, the decor and capacity have all changed, the spirit is exactly the same. From the very outset, SIHH was intended as an exclusive and private event for the fine watch profession. Over the years, we have seen changes in the Maisons taking part which reflect concentration within the sector over these past 25 years, and which has led to the emergence of groups. This is one of the factors behind the expansion of the SIHH and why it has grown into such a foremost event. Yet however true this may be, those early fairs already sowed the seeds for the ones we are organising today.
So what are the ingredients behind the SIHH’s success?
As I mentioned, the SIHH’s status as an exclusive, invitation-only trade fair has been fundamental. Equally important is the fact that all the exhibitors belong to the very small circle of fine watchmaking’s major players. The quality of the welcome extended to visitors, the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere, as well as the impeccable service participants enjoy also contribute to the event’s success. The SIHH was brought into being to provide a showcase for fine watchmaking; to create a setting on a par with the products that are presented there. A world of pleasure and emotion.
What have been the major developments over the past 25 years?
Other than the fact that the number of exhibitors has considerably evolved, as has the setting itself and the services provided, two points spring to mind. Firstly, while the SIHH is essentially a commercial event, for a number of years now it has taken on an additional, cultural dimension. Think of the curated exhibitions that are staged there, and which show fine watchmaking in a different light. The response from visitors has been extremely positive. The second significant development concerns the change in dates. Due to calendar circumstances beyond our control, we were obliged to bring the SIHH forward. Traditionally it took place in April but since 2009 it has been held in January. This completely transformed how the brands organise their year in terms of creation and production. Ultimately though, everyone is delighted with this new rhythm. The Maisons can bring their new products to the markets much earlier in the year. As for the SIHH, it gets the 2015 latest Breitling watchmaking year underway by setting out the trends for the next twelve months.
We hear a lot about competition between SIHH and Baselworld. Is this true?
On the contrary, I think the two events complement each other. The brands that took part in the
first SIHHs were looking for a more personal, more exclusive setting. Which it still is. In comparison, last year Baselworld attracted some 1,500 exhibitors and more than 150,000 visitors. The two events aren’t in the same league, as the SIHH’s 16 exhibiting Maisons welcome some 15,000 people. These are two very different concepts and therefore two events that are completely different in spirit. I’d like to add that one of the merits of the SIHH is to have put Geneva on the world fine watch map, a position it fully deserves given the history and density of watchmaking in the canton.
Over recent years, we’ve seen more and more brands descend on Geneva during SIHH week. Any comments?
I think it’s the price of success. The SIHH clearly attracts an elite clientele as all these brands want to take advantage of their presence in Geneva. Not so long ago, only a handful of Maisons came to Genevan hotels to show their products concomitantly to the SIHH. Now there are dozens of them. Some host pop-up events, a kind of mini trade fair; others now come to Geneva prior to Baselworld. For our 25th anniversary edition, we can look forward to a loyal audience, won over to fine Breitling replica watches.